Just Another Face in the Crowd?
Have you ever wanted to blend into a crowd? Or just “float” through a day? This could have been possible in the past, however, with biometric technologies such as facial recognition slowly integrating its way into our daily lives, it seems almost impossible to go unnoticed. No longer are we just another face in the crowd; trying to hide, or blend into the crowds at large venues would be impossible. This is a result of the increasing fear of terrorism that has risen in the past couple years, more specifically, after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre. Major events and even public areas soon started using facial recognition to increase the level of safety. The question is, however, with a technology such as facial recognition, is it doing more harm than good?
Facial recognition does have an appeal that a password might not have, such as not having to memorize anything, and that it is increasingly difficult to “hack” the system if it were possible. Like many technologies, facial recognition does come with its flaws. For an example, from an observed test at the Palm Beach International Airport lasting for four weeks, the system had a success rate of only 47%, while at least two to three false positives alarmed per hour. Not only will changes in background objects, lighting, or camera position produce altered results, but with aging, different results would be produced. How can we trust a technology that is temperamental? Is it worth putting our trust and safety into something that isn’t stable? (The Free Library: Face the facts: facial recognition technology's troubled past--and troubling future, 10/15/07)
With a low success rate, institutions and the government are still putting their faith in facial recognition technologies, but from the perspective of the general public, those who are caught as a “false positive” may view facial recognition as a great hassle that isn’t worth the trouble. Innocent civilians are getting caught under security’s new “technology du-jour” of trying to capture criminals and terrorists through facial recognition. As a result, they are falsely accused, and possibly labelled as something they are not.
Retail stores may also soon use facial recognition in the near future. Employers would be able to breathe a sigh of relief with a more secure system that would prevent possible thefts within the company by the employees themselves as well as it would be highly convenient. By using facial recognition to "log on" or check in ones time, employees could save a lot of time and it would reduce any tampering that could occur with time cards. If however, someone were to get their hands on the facial templates of employees, it would prove to be a much more difficult than replacing a password. Information about the individuals would be available and it would be difficult to restore the same level of security as before. Compared to passwords, templates for facial recognition would be incredibly difficult to change since it's impossible to alter the way one looks completely.
In the world of constant fear that we now seem to live in, we have to choose between freedom and safety. Are we willing to sacrifice our privacy for an increased chance of security? The fact is, with the present technology and future innovations, we are no longer "faceless" or strangers to one another, all because of our need for security that present day society has created.